The Sun and Two Seas
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It is the thirteenth century AD. The kingdom of Kalinga is flourishing, having recently defeated Turkish forces encroaching from the North and established thriving ties as far afield as Africa. King Narasimha Ganga plans to immortalize himself by building the magnificent Sun Temple at the edge of the sea. However, unable to decide on the perfect design, and beset by financial woes, he decides to focus on something more congenial: sending a royal gift of prime cattle to an African Sultan. Meanwhile, his neglected consort searches for solace by studying the stars, and her young cousin drifts aimlessly through the palace, playing the flute and flirting with handsome soldiers.
When Narasimha’s childhood friend, the Crown Prince of Parijatapuri arrives, pursued by a band of assassins, to keep him out of harm’s way, Narasimha dispatches both himÃ‘as his EnvoyÃ‘and his feckless cousin-in-lawÃ‘as Superintendent of the CattleÃ‘on the voyage to Africa. They must deliver the cattle and bring back a zarafa, an exotic four-legged animal with ‘the neck of a snake’ which, according to the half-Chinese Royal Scrivener, is ‘a harbinger of fortune and serenity’.
Before the voyage is over, all the characters are transformed as they juggle clandestine love affairs and treasonous plots, endure arduous journeys and have terrifying encounters with unknown monsters.
Written in lush, vivid prose, leavened by wry humour, and teeming with memorable characters, The Sun and Two Seas is an enchanting read.
Vikramajit Ram was born and educated in India. After graduating from the National Institute of Design in 1990, he practised as a graphic designer for several years. His first book, Elephant Kingdom: Sculptures from Indian Architecture (2007) was followed by two travelogues, Dreaming Vishnus: A Journey through Central India (2008) and Tso and La: A Journey in Ladakh (2012). He lives in Bangalore.